The Cost of (Not) Changing

If we stop to think about it, the home inspection business has both changed dramatically over the past 20 years, and it hasn’t really changed that much at all. Yes, I know that I’m saying two opposite things in the same sentence, and no, Hurricane Ida burnout hasn’t totally fried my brain (well, maybe a little), but hear me out. Change is a unique thing, and it changes (yeah, I know that’s redundant) depending on our point of view.

change is a good thing in your home inspection business

If we think about the technology involved in performing a home inspection, then yes, we’re light years ahead of where we were 20 years ago. We used to walk around with clipboards and paperwork, jotting down notes about everything we inspected, in preparation for typing out our reports once we got back home that night. Some of us used carbonless forms, where the things we’d write on the top page would be magically transferred to the duplicate pages below, allowing us to tear out a copy for the buyer and agent as soon as we finished the inspection, delivering a completed report on site. While these forms were quite primitive in their content, and we had to walk around the house with a piece of cardboard to put under the electrical page so our writing wouldn’t bleed through to the roofing page, these forms allowed us to deliver a report to our clients more quickly, therefore increasing the appeal of our company to prospective clients.

One inspector I knew would pull his camper to the inspection and park it, with his wife inside, in front of the house. He walked around doing his inspection while wearing a two-way headset and communicated his findings to his wife in the camper. Using a manual typewriter, she would hammer out the inspection report in real time, and they would deliver a completed, typed report to their clients as soon as the inspection was done. While this may seem quaint to us now, their methods foreshadowed our current inspection software, which can produce a completed report with the touch of a button as soon as we’re finished inspecting the house. (We’ll leave for another day the debate over whether sending an inspection report on-site, without a thorough proofread, is a good idea).

Our access to technology was primitive, compared to today. We had cell phones, but they were mostly for making phone calls. We didn’t have the ability to send and receive emails, DMs, or messages in apps, and text messaging was in its infancy, cumbersome, clunky, and not very widely used. And we certainly didn’t have access to the internet or message boards on our phones, so getting the answer to a home inspection question was much more difficult than it is now.

Those were much simpler times for inspectors. There was not much technology to deal with in those days. And while certain aspects of technology have made our jobs easier and our reports more polished, all those changes have also added a few more headaches to our jobs.

Quality information about when to move forward and when to stay put

Now that everyone has access to the internet in the palm of their hands, it’s much easier for them to post pictures, videos, and reviews about our business. Every one of our customers is now their own little media outlet, spreading information (and misinformation) far and wide with just the click of a button or the swipe of the screen. We piss off our clients at our own risk!

Which brings us to the fact that while a lot of things have changed, some things haven’t really changed all that much. No matter how much our process is transformed, how often our software and hardware undergo a revolutionary transformation, or how far we go with computer automation, one thing will always remain the same:

Customer service has always been, and will always be, king.

The value that we provide to our clients, both actual and perceived, has an outsized influence on the future success of our business. Now, more than ever, how our clients think they’re being treated determines for far we’re able to go.

Spend the time and effort to make sure that our clients are happy with our service and the product that we provide, and we’ll reap the rewards of a good reputation. Skimp on the customer service aspects of our job, and we’ll quickly develop a reputation that can follow us for the rest of our career. With a cell phone and a few minutes time, our clients can post reviews that can influence our business success for years to come.

I know many inspectors who know much more than me about houses and inspecting, yet they can’t seem to get more than 5 inspection customers a month. They can’t figure out why people won’t use them, as they’re obviously smarter than the rest of the inspectors in the state (and are quick to let you know it)!

I also know inspectors who had to take the National Home Inspection Exam numerous times before they passed, and who’s inspection knowledge could be called marginal at best. But these inspectors are quite personable and go out of their way to make sure that their home inspection clients are taken care of, happily answering every question, and making sure that they’re kept informed during every step of the process. By simply giving a damn about someone other than themselves and their ego, they have all the inspections they want every month.

The purpose of a business is to create a customer who creates customers.

Shiv Singh

Great customer service can smooth over a lot if things in a business relationship. Think about the last time you ate in a restaurant where the meal wasn’t all that great. The way your server handled the situation likely had a big influence on how you responded to the situation. If the server was inattentive and aloof, seemingly not caring at all about your situation, it’s likely that you left upset, posted a scathing review, and never went back to that establishment.

However, if your server was attentive to your needs, apologized for the problem, and worked hard to make the best of a bad situation, it’s quite likely that your bad meal ended with a different outcome. While you may have left disappointed in the quality of the meal, you were probably a little more understanding of the situation, refrained from posting a bad review, and maybe considered returning another day to try the food again. After all, any restaurant kitchen can have an off day, and maybe the next time will be better.

good customer service is important in your home inspection business

Just a little bit of quality customer service, empathizing with a client instead of blowing them off, can make the difference between a business getting a bad review and getting another shot.

Things are always changing all around us. We can embrace some of these changes, moving our business forward and taking advantage of new technology that promises to help us better serve our customers, or we can stand pat, doing the same thing we’ve always done. But one thing that will never change is the benefits of giving a damn about our clients.

Remembering that our clients represent more to us than just a paycheck is one of the easiest way to make sure that they keep giving us one.

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Thanks, Joe

pic of me, Joseph Cook Jr, home inspector